October 11, 2012
The past few weeks have been a chance to spend some time with family, old friends, and new friends. In mid-September we left the boat and drove to Northern Virginia where more than 70 people gathered for a reunion of my former company Landmark Systems. Despite short notice, a lousy mailing list, and a weeknight date, the turnout was great and we had a wonderful time reminiscing about the Good Ole Days – it’s been over ten years since Landmark was acquired! We also attended the outdoor wedding of a good friend on a beautiful day and I caught up with many long unseen friends. Speaking of which, I also re-connected with my best friend from 5th through 7thgrades! Karen and I were inseparable for several years, but went different directions in high school and had not seen each other in many years – we never quite determined how many! But we picked up right where we left off – spending a night at Karen’s house and later hosting Karen and husband Mark onboard Shear Madness for dinner.
After arriving with the boat in Solomons, we had a busy weekend, with friends Lloyd and Arlene, Tina and Braun, Dee, and Susan over for dinner on Friday. A fabulous night! On Saturday we had an “open boat” party attended by over 35 friends and family from the DC-Baltimore-VA area. Time was too short to properly catch up with everyone! Our friends Ken and Christine with kids Margaux and Elliott stayed the night and Ken made his famous pancakes for breakfast.
We weren’t done yet! Bob, the manager and director of Shear Madness, the play, finally came for a visit to Shear Madness, the boat along with his partner John. Thirteen years ago Bob had worked us into the cast of the play during our wedding and though we’ve kept in touch, we had not seen each other since. It was great to catch up and it’s no surprise to learn that someone who makes his living with Shear Madness is really funny and entertaining! Bob and Bradley, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, also enjoyed trying to convince each other of their points of view – that too was entertaining and all in good fun!
After a day of rest to catch our breath, we departed Solomons to head back to Deltaville to complete some projects. Upon arrival, we met up with friends Linda and Douglas from Aries Too and Peter and Joanne from Journey, both Nordhavns, for a dinner aboard Shear Madness. And another typical cruiser story – for a few months I have been emailing a woman named Marie whose boat was also struck by lightning. We’ve never met but have exchanged stories about our respective repairs by email. When Marie heard we were heading to Deltaville, she told me “you have to contact our friend Bill who lives right across from the marina”. So when we arrived I sent an email to Bill explaining that Marie had suggested I contact him. No more than 15 minutes later there was a knock on the hull and there was a man standing there with a big smile, a bottle of wine, and an invitation to his house!
- As reported in the last update, we had some strange behavior of the autopilot (AP), a Simrad AP25, on the trip to Solomons. It was periodically shutting itself off, or switching from “Auto” to “Follow Up (FU)” mode by itself, sometimes requiring us to turn off the circuit in order to regain control. We have two AP systems consisting of separate steering pumps and processors (computers). We can select Primary or Alternate AP via a switch in the Pilothouse. The systems share two heads (control panels), one remote control, and five Follow Up Steering Levers (appropriately called FU25’s). Because we were experiencing the problem with both the Primary and Secondary system, we suspected one of the common components was the likely cause. Once safely in the marina, Bradley began the tedious task of diagnosing the problem which uncovered another issue – a bit of a flaw in our redundancy.
The wiring that connects all the AP components is located beneath the helm station in the Pilothouse and requires removal of the wheel in order to access. If there is a problem with the autopilot, as in this case, and we have to manually steer, you need to use the wheel, thus making it difficult to remove in order to solve the AP problem! Anyway, Bradley began by disconnecting all the FU units from the AP. This is easier said than done as each of the 5 FU’s has five wires. Each then had to be reconnected one at a time to determine which one was causing the problem. Fortunately, even while not moving at the marina, we could re-create the problem by simply turning the AP on in standby mode. Soon it would switch itself into Follow Up Mode. Each test took several hours as the failure is not immediate, with Bradley squeezing himself into the small cabinet over and over. However, we eventually concluded that the Flybridge FU unit was the culprit, most likely due to an electrical issue from the lightning strike, and with all other components re-connected, we successfully made the trip to Deltaville with no further problem. Of course, the FU25 model we have is no longer made, so we are evaluating whether a newer model FU50 will work with our system, or whether we can find a couple FU25’s somewhere.
We continue to have one additional issue with the Autopilot which I have mentioned previously. When in “Nav” mode where the AP is steering along a route with multiple waypoints, sometimes when a waypoint is reached, the AP wants to do a turn that bears no relation to the next waypoint. We had determined that a piece of data called BWW (Bearing Waypoint to Waypoint) that is sent to the AP is all zeroes when this problem occurs. So let’s say we are on a course of 180 and the next waypoint will be a course of 170. We should make a 10 degree turn upon arrival at the first waypoint and the BWW should be 170, which is then subtracted from our current heading to result in a course change of 10 degrees. However, if the BWW is zero, the AP will attempt a turn of 170 degrees. Not good. Fortunately, any turn of more than 10 degrees requires a confirmation, so will not be automatically executed. So, although we know that the BWW is zero when this happens, we haven’t quite figured out WHY it is zero. But I have developed a theory which I am now testing. We use Nobeltec Trident TimeZero chart plotting software which interfaces to NavNet 3D, an integrated product including chart plotting, radar, and other information. Navnet is also the source of the data sent to the autopilot. Routes can be shared between Nobletec and Navnet (both Furuno products) and can be created, activated, and changed in either system. Typically, I create and activate routes in Nobletec and I wondered if the problem could somehow lie between these two systems rather than between Navnet and the AP. Upon leaving Solomons, I activated a route with multiple waypoints in Nobletec. We had the problem occur at our second waypoint change. I then wondered about a specific parameter called the Waypoint Arrival Radius. This can be set to tell the software when it should recognize that a waypoint has been reached and the next one should be activated; that is how close you need to be to the waypoint before you have “arrived”. What would happen if Nobletec thought we had arrived at a waypoint, but Navnet didn’t? Seems possible that scenario could result in NavNet not sending correct data to the AP. To test my theory, I canceled the route, changed the arrival radius so that Navnet would recognize arrival sooner than Nobletec, and activated the route in Navnet rather than Nobletec. I added a bunch of additional waypoints, all of which were executed with no problem. Since this problem is intermittent, it’s way too soon to tell if we have found a cause and/or solution, but I can’t wait to get out and test it again!
We’ve added a new project to the list at Deltaville – to re-wire the shared AP components and connect them to a switch that will allow us to isolate each component without having to remove the wheel.
We have a list of projects to complete at Deltaville, including:
Installing new engine exhaust fans
Designing and installing screens for the pilothouse doors and main salon side door (really needed in anchorages with lots of flys or bugs when we want breeze)
Installing new anchor snubber-line system and new anchor swivels
Small repairs to a couple ports and hatches and swim ladder
Updating our electrical drawings to reflect all the changes made with the lightning strike repairs